A social media mistake sent a girls softball team home early after they were disqualified from a world tournament and embarrassed on the national stage.
One member of the Atlee team from Richmond, Virginia, posted a team photo on Snapchat showing six of the girls flipping off their opponent. The words “Watch out, host” — intended for the Kirkland team, who they played Friday — were written on a banner across the photo.
After Atlee coaches learned about the post, they made the girls delete it and took the team to apologize in person.
But it was too late.
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On Saturday, officials with the Little League World Series disqualified Atlee from the tournament for 12-to-15-year-olds.
“We thought we had tried to do the right thing and make this thing right,” manager Scott Currie told the Times-Dispatch. “They didn’t give us a chance to defend ourselves, didn’t do any investigation whatsoever of the situation.”
A spokesman with the Little League told the paper in a statement that the Atlee team’s gesture violated their policies for “unsportsmanlike conduct, inappropriate use of social media, and the high standard that Little League International holds for all its participants.”
The Atlee league has requested an investigation into how the matter was handled. Its president, Jamie Batten, pointed out in a statement that the “unpleasant interactions” were not all “on the part of those on the Atlee softball team.”
The Atlee and Kirkland teams faced off Friday in a game Atlee won 1-0. A Kirkland player and coach were thrown out of the game for stealing signals.
After Atlee was disqualified, Kirkland advanced to the final and lost Saturday to a team from Poland, Ohio.
Atlee coaches said they do not believe their girls acted appropriately, but believe the punishment was too severe.
“Our kids were absolutely wrong in what they did, but they paid a heavy price for it,” Batten said.
The team flew home Sunday and were greeted by supporters in the airport carrying signs with messages like “All Together Love Embrace Encourage.”
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653